OK, so maybe this isn’t the traditional way girls meet the mother of their boyfriend. And, yeah, maybe I’d met her once or twice before at quick front door meet-and-greets. But this was the first time I really met her, you know. This was the first time we really established eye contact and regarded each other for a moment.
It was a chilling experience.
I was 19, my boyfriend 21. We were home for the summer, after having spent a grueling year apart at colleges across the country. We were making up for lost time, and, conveniently, my boyfriend found himself with a house-sitting gig for a few days. No more making out in cars and movie theaters! We could properly play house for 48 hours! We.were.into.it.
Her eyes locked with mine. There was a beat. Maybe two. I saw into her soul. She saw into many, many parts of me. Then came the screaming.
Well, we were into it until his mother used her key (she had a key?!) to sneak into the house early one morning with an actual, literal, basket of muffins for her youngest child. “Surprise! Good mo—” she said, bursting into the bedroom. Her eyes locked with mine. There was a beat. Maybe two. I saw into her soul. She saw into many, many parts of me. Then came the screaming.
Yes, I stared at the mother of my soon-to-be-husband, while my soon-to-be husband was inside me. Just take a moment to think about that.
It was that millisecond of staring when all my suspicions were confirmed. She really didn’t like me. And not just because of the naked straddling. She thought I was brash and inappropriate (well, obviously). She thought me too boyish (though now she’d seen me naked she’d have to rethink that, right?). She hated that I wasn’t Catholic and thus fornicated before marriage (disregarding the fact that her son was also an enthusiastic pre-marriage fornicator). She hated that her son swooned when he said my name (he has always been more of a girl than me).
In her desperation to (fix the situation? scare me away? rain down shame and terror upon me?) SHE CALLED MY MOTHER. My mother, bless her, was not having it. My parents had the fantastic and refreshing revelation that once I turned 18 I was my own person. They helped me pay for my room and board in school, but other than that, everything else was up to me. They pushed their little bird out of the nest, and their little bird was grateful.
When this woman called my mother to explain to her that her daughter was a hellbound whore and, even worse, improperly parented, my mother flipped the fuck out. No one calls my mother a bad parent. Particularly when it involves her (arguably) near-adult daughter making (sometimes questionable, but definitely educational) near-adult decisions.
Yeah. My mom went crazy.
And his mom went crazy.
And so he and I packed up his car with a couple of suitcases and drove across the country, and I enrolled in a new college.
We left everyone and everything behind for 14 months.
We fled the scene.
I’m not sure that even now his mother realizes her reaction to our relationship actually thrust us (sorry) closer together. Her wide-eyed panic helped us make the decision to move in together. (Her response? “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?”) Her hysteria made us evaluate how we felt about each other.
We were married a year later. Our mothers didn’t speak at the wedding.
They still don’t really speak, and it’s been 16 years. Over time, though, at least my mother-in-law and I have reached a kind of détente. Having a baby seemed to be the magic pill, so like any good overachiever, I had three.
My mother-in-law is still quick with a barb (“I wish I wrote books all day so I didn’t have to clean my house!”) but she is also a kind grandmother who goes above and beyond to help our family when we need it. She and I don’t agree on parenting tactics, we don’t agree on politics, we don’t agree on religion, but we have found things we do have in common. We like a nice hot cup of tea, even in the summer. We like White House Christmas ornaments. We like well-made shoes for children, even if those shoes are sort of expensive.
And, a while back, when she was at our house helping out while my husband was out of town and I was with our son in the hospital, she didn’t call my mother when she discovered a giant glass dildo under my pillow. She didn’t even bring it up. Though I know she found it because I came home to crisp new sheets and that same giant glass dildo right under my pillow where I’d left it.
My mother-in-law might not always approve of me. I might not always approve of her. But we accept each other now. Glass dildos and all.